Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Almost Wordless

My backyard - My 6' tall husband next to tree with water line(s) from the Manitoba Assiniboine River Flood 2011. More Wordless Wednesday.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

The Glass Castle is the memoir of Jeannette Walls. The narrative opens with Jeannette seeing her Mom, who's been living on the street, digging through a dumpster. She goes on to recount her life with her dysfunctional family.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was well written, easy to read and extremely fascinating. It serves as a good reminder about how resilient we can be and that not everyone grows up in a stable household. The memories are presented in relatively short vignettes. I liked this, but sometimes I wanted to know more about what happened or how Jeannette felt about the incident.

Even though I liked the book a lot, in general I have trouble with childhood memories. First of all, children see the world differently than adults. They don't have the mental capacity to understand everything that goes on so their views on things come out a little skewed. Secondly, I find it hard to believe that someone could remember so much from their childhood. I certainly don't. I had to remind myself several times that a memoir is just a collection of that person's memories. It may not (and doesn't have to) accurately represent what actually happened.

While reading the book, I wondered many times about Rex's and Rose Mary's love for their children. How could they claim that they loved their children when they were going hungry and had to dig through dumpsters for food? They had nothing and wanted for everything. The capacity to earn a living was apparently there, but it wasn't what they did. By the end of the book, though, I realized that love comes in many different forms and packages. They believed they did the best they could. I don't want to reveal the ending, but a few pages near the end of the book, just about broke my heart.

I realize Jeannette did what she had to do to survive, but I'm not sure I'd have the strength to change my life the way she has. I also don't think I'd be strong enough to let my mother live on the street. I don't know what I'd do, but I'd probably lose a lot of sleep over it.

Favourite quotes:
They make it too easy to be homeless. If it was really unbearable, we'd do something different. (Rose Mary, Jeannette's Mom, page 264)

[Jeannette:] I asked about the property in Phoenix.
"I'm saving that for a rainy day."
"Mom, it's pouring."
"This is just a drizzle," she said. "Monsoons could be ahead!" She sipped her tea. "Things usually work out in the end."
"What if they don't?"
"That just means you haven't come to the end yet."
(exchange between Jeannette and her Mom, page 259)

New words:
simony (page 105): trading in sacred things
caryatid (page 208): female-shaped supporting pillar

Highly recommended. I have a copy of Half Broke Horses, Jeannette's next book, on my to-be-read shelf. I'm really looking forward to it.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit Simon & Schuster's website.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, Scribner (Simon & Schuster) ©2005. ISBN 9780743247542(Trade Paperback), 288p.

Wordless Wednesday - Sunflower

More Wordless Wednesday.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Flood Watch - 2011 - Two Months Later

Wow! Has it really been two months since my last flood update? It seems like only yesterday. I won't go into all of the reasons for the lack of posts, but I will say that up until last week, not much had really changed. While we weren't completely surrounded by water anymore, there was still lots of it around. The backyard was pretty much the same as the photos I posted previously and the driveway was impassable. Like I said, though, things have changed in the last week or so.

Here are some highlights from past two months:

End of June - We lost our boat (the one we were using to get across the driveway). The municipality stopped paying for it and we didn't think it was worth paying for it ourselves. We had pretty much stopped using it because using hip waders was easier than paddling the distance. I only had to dip my paddle into the water about 5 times. We were still using it occasionally to haul groceries in and garbage/recycling out.  Not fun, but not a huge deal.

July 13 - My husband walked down the driveway with boots. Not hip waders. The water had dropped about 6-8 inches in just a few days. This was a big deal. Slipping on boots was a lot better than having to put on hip waders every time we wanted to get to the car. Walking with groceries, bottled water etc. wasn't fun, but we got it done.

July 17 - The water dropped even more to the point where 95% of the driveway was not underwater. There was still a small section that had about an 1" of water on it. Wearing sneakers to the car, though, was still about two weeks away.

Next four weeks or so - Nothing. No drop in water, no rise in water, just frustration at the water not moving.

August 13 or so - Water started dropping in all parts of the yard. Several inches a day! We knew it was coming and were expecting it around the first week in August. Even though it was a few days late, it was very welcome.

August 18 - We drove the SUV down the driveway and parked in the garage. We hadn't done that since late April. This is a very, very big deal. Even though the water was mostly off the driveway for a whole month already, it was way too soft to drive on.

We haven't really started cleanup yet because it's pretty mucky and slippery. Once it dries out a bit, we'll be gathering up all of the debris that floated in. I'll post more about that later this week.

This part of the yard has the most water in it. The small lake extends about 300 feet to the left, all the way to the neighbours house. It's most likely land locked now. We'll either wait until it soaks in (a long time) or we'll pump it out. Not sure yet.   Some of the trees have started to turn. It's early, but it's probably because they are water logged.  We are hoping they aren't dying.   If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see the water lines on the trees. 

You can see the two distinct water levels on the bottom of the large tree. The top one until mid July, the lower one until mid August.   The line on the grass is less distinct, but it too shows the two water lines. 

Lots and lots of wood to pick up.  I hope we don't find anything gross.

We are relieved that the river is finally receding, but we're a bit frustrated that it took so long for the province to make it so.   That's it for now.   

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand

When Freddy Delinn is charged with embezzling billions in a Ponzi scheme, his wife, Meredith, is frantic. She swears that she didn't know anything about the scheme, but the authorities are not convinced and start investigating her possible involvement as well as that of her sons. She knows that she must go into hiding and contacts an old friend, Connie, whom she hasn't seen in years. Together they spend the summer in Connie's summer house on Nantucket while they discover "the power of friendship, the pull of love, and the beauty of forgiveness."

Silver Girl is the latest book from Elin Hilderbrand and a perfect summer read. I really enjoy books set on the east coast and this one was no exception. I loved the 'ripped from the headlines' premise. When people like Meredith's husband Freddie (much like real life embezzler Bernie Madoff) are caught and dominate the headlines for weeks, what happens to the wife?

Alternating the narrative between Meredith and Connie, the story focuses on their summer, but also delves into their pasts to help the reader understand their tenuous relationship and how they got to where they are today. I loved how Hilderbrand constructed the story and kept details back until absolutely necessary adding a level of suspense to the book.

I really loved the characters in the book. They were flawed and believable. I thought about them when I wasn't reading about them. I couldn't wait to pick up the book again to see what they were doing. I wasn't totally convinced by the relationship between Connie's brother, Toby, and Meredith, but it was passable.

There were just a few things in the story that just didn't make sense. I'll only go into one of them so I don't reveal any major plot points. Several times throughout the book, Meredith mentions that she's had the same glasses since Grade 8; they have become her trademark. I can see having a certain style of glasses, but not the exact same pair. I wear glasses and I know that prescriptions change and the glasses wear out. Besides, her husband had embezzled billions of dollars. Surely, she would have updated them in the last 30+ years. That's just one of the little things that bothered me about the story. There were a few more, but as I said before I don't want to reveal any spoilers.

New words:
espadrilles (page 164): casual summer shoe
moldering (page 196): rotting
peripatetic (page 329): travelling, nomadic
avuncular (page 333): resembling an uncle
louche (page 380): Of questionable taste or morality

I also read and really enjoyed The Castaways (my review), which was also written by this author.

Even though I had a few problems with the story, I'd still highly recommend the book. However, it probably won't be making it to my "Best of 2011" list as I had anticipated it would. I still plan on reading more books by Hilderbrand. In fact, I have a few of her older books on my to-be-read shelf that I can't wait to get to.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Hachette Book Group website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Hachette Book Group for this review copy.

Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand, Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown and Company (Hachette), ©2011. ISBN 9780316099660(Advanced Reader's Copy), 417p.